Dave Miller on Baking with 100% Whole Wheat

...en I took a workshop taught by Chico, California baker Dave Miller. His breads are almost all 100% whole wheat. He mills his own flour from carefully sourced heritage grains. Using a levain (a starter), he creates loaves that foreground the flavor of the grain. In short, he shows that bread can have as much flavor diversity as wine. Miller is a true master craftsman. He’s also a superb teacher: humble, patient and generous. He’s also...

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On Living in Los Angeles Without a Car: A Debate

Photo by Sarah Sulaiman LAStreetsblog.org. Walkin’ in L.A., nobody walks in L.A. Walkin’ in L.A. Walkin’ in L.A., only a nobody walks in L.A. - Missing Persons Erik: It’s been nearly two months since a texting video producer totaled the car that Kelly and I shared: a 1993 teal Acura Integra hatchback. Except for a few car rentals, we haven’t been doing much driving. In short, we get to claim the olive wreath of...

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Gadget Love: The Johnson Temperature Controller

A friend of mine gave me a chest freezer recently and I augmented it with a handy gizmo, a Johnson temperature controller. The temperature controller allows me to run the freezer at any temperature between 30 and 80ºF. It works by cycling on and off the power to the freezer as needed. You just stick the copper probe in the freezer and adjust the dial to the desired temperature. So far I’ve thought of the following uses: Proof bread overn...

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Processing and Winnowing Flax

We grew a five foot circle of flax this winter in the center of our yard. When it came time to harvest said flax I pondered creating the world’s smallest piece of linen. Lacking the time for that process, I opted to simply harvest the seeds. I used a block of coconut coir to smash the seed heads against a piece of newspaper. Next came time for winnowing the flax. I used a fan and had to winnow multiple times to get the chaff out. Alas,...

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The Art of Memory

We need a term for superfluous smart phone trivia Googling. After all, with the vast archive of factoids on the interwebs who needs to remember anything anymore? But what do we miss by externalizing all of our memories into an electronic form.  What about those bards of the past who could recite thousands of lines of poetry, or the Greek rhetoricians who could speak for hours at a time without notes? Thankfully the basics of the lost art of mem...

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Our New Earth Oven and How We Built It

The almost completed horno–waiting for its final plaster coat in a few weeks. Kurt Gardella and Ben Loescher taught an amazing earth oven workshop at our house this weekend. Keep your eye out for classes these guys offer if you are interested in earth ovens, adobe houses or earth plasters and finishes. Contact information is below. Here I thought I’d briefly describe the process with a few pictures. One of the nice things ab...

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Why You Should Have a Thermometer in Your Refrigerator/Freezer

While I’m tempted to buy lots of kitchen gadgets (a male disease, I think), I know that to do so with a kitchen as small as ours is a foolish and costly pastime. One gadget that I picked up recently, however, has proven very useful: a refrigerator/freezer thermometer. Freezers should be kept at 0ºF (-18ºC). At that temperature most frozen foods will keep for a year. The refrigerator should be below 40ºF (4.5ºC). (Source: Food Safety Advis...

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Natural Dyeing with Woad

ent times. Woad was prized by Napoleon and used to dye his army’s uniforms. At one time, the production of woad was the cornerstone of the economy of the south of France. Indigo on the left. Woad on the right. To formulate the dye, the plant was cultivated and the leaves picked in the first year. The leaves are crushed and, originally, left to ferment in a vat for over a year. The pH of the vat was maintained with the urine of the...

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The Cat Poop Portal: Litter Box Composting, Installment #1

...method we’re going to try. We’re just going to do straight up, classic composting, Humanure Handbook style. The only difference between this style and ordinary composting is that we’ll let this compost rest for two years before we spread it, to be sure the bad beasties die off. And in case they aren’t gone, we won’t spread the finished compost around edible plants. No, this is not orthodox practice. It is not consid...

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Stencils as Garden Art

...air talks about. So let’s make some stencils! Here’s how I do it: Image processing First step is to find a suitable image. This tutorial shows you how to use Photoshop to make your stencil. Materials and tools I used acetate, but it’s expensive. Bruce used old manilla folders. A cheaper alternative is freezer paper. I cut my stencil using an exacto knife. Painting First I spray the surface I’m stenciling with some Krylo...

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